Since 2015, the Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP) has hosted an intensive five-day course, Pathways to Military Internships: The Summer Institute, at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) to foster clinical and counseling psychology doctoral students’ interest in a military psychology career. Each summer, students from across the U.S. and U.S. territories come together to explore the opportunities offered by military internships and gain knowledge about the various roles of psychologists in the Armed Forces.
In 2022, CDP introduced its inaugural three-day virtual Pathways to Military Internships: The Winter Institute to expand this unique training opportunity to more doctoral students. The Winter Institute offers a condensed version of the curriculum at a different time of year in an accessible live webinar format. Both the Summer and Winter Institutes allow civilian students to discover the world of military psychology at no tuition cost and support the military mission by helping to fill and train the pipeline of future military psychologists.
“This is an amazing FREE opportunity for students who would like to be actively engaged with the military going forward and it is definitely worth taking advantage of,” stated one attendee of the Institute.
Based on its initial success, CDP hosted the Winter Institute again on 9-11 January 2023. The 24 students who attended this year represented 20 institutions from 10 states and Washington, DC and reported diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, including 25% who identified as Hispanic or Latino, 13% Black or African American, 8% Asian or Asian American, 4% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 4% other race or origin (8% preferred not to answer the question). On the first day, the class learned about military culture. The content challenged students’ assumptions about working with the military population and illuminated how the warrior ethos informs key military values. The students also explored how military psychologists’ responsibilities may differ from those of civilian psychologists.
The second day of the course provided a window into military psychological assessments followed by a discussion about the experiences of military spouses and children when a family member joins the service. Later, students heard from a Training Directors Panel representing the three services that offer psychology internships: Army Maj. Jennifer Iveland; Air Force (ret.) Dr. Ann Hryshko-Mullen; and Navy (ret.) Dr. John Ralph. The students gained practical information about military internships and careers as the Training Directors responded to questions about clinical rotations and qualifications they look for in applicants. Participants gave particularly high ratings on helpfulness to the panel.
“Discussions about their breadth of experience helped to better paint a picture of what my career could look like and further inspired my motivations to keep moving towards a career as an Army psychologist,” one student of the course reflected.
On the last day, three current active duty psychologists spoke, each representing a different branch and career stage: Navy Cmdr. Jason Duff; Air Force Capt. Stephanie Olson; and Army Maj. Steven Snowden. Their accounts further enriched the students’ understanding of military psychology careers, both professionally and personally. The final day also included a 3-hour session on ethical considerations that uniformed psychologists face working with military members. The course culminated with students convening in small groups and identifying specific action items to strengthen their qualifications for a military internship and prepare for a military career.
Throughout the Winter Institute, students took advantage of virtually connecting with peers from across the country and networking with current and former military psychologists for mentorship. They were encouraged to continue professional networking by joining the Summer and Winter Institute Facebook page, a private group for past and present Summer and Winter Institute attendees.
Student feedback about the 2023 Winter Institute was extremely positive with all participants providing an overall rating of excellent or good for the program as well as reporting a significant increase in their readiness to pursue a military-focused career in psychology from before to after the course.
“Whether or not one chooses a career as an AD military psychologist or civilian working with service members, the information presented was invaluable in making me feel more prepared to consider this potential career path as someone with next to no exposure to military culture coming in,” said one student’s feedback regarding the Institute.
Another student commented, “I think a lot of people don't know what it means to be a military psychologist and the opportunities that it presents, especially if they're not well-connected with the community. I would recommend this training to a peer so they are more knowledgeable of their options for practicum, internship, etc.”
The CDP is excited to further diversify and expand the applicant pool by continuing to offer both the Summer and Winter Institutes annually and promoting them widely, including to historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and organizations with diverse membership such as the Association of Black Psychologists and Asian American Psychological Association.
This year's Summer Institute took place at USU on 17-21 July 2023. Keep an eye out for a rundown of that great event as well!